The right food for a har­mo­ni­ous men­strual cycle

Cramps, bad mood, water reten­tion. Almost every men­stru­at­ing per­son has exper­i­enced at least one of the count­less PMS and men­strual symp­toms. There are many tips to help get through this time. One of them: Eat­ing. Eat cyc­lic­ally, to be exact. If ques­tion marks are appear­ing on your face now, hang in there! Because the right nutri­tion for the men­strual cycle can do a lot more than just relieve discomfort.

How can we act­ively sup­port the men­strual cycle?

Everything we eat some­how has an influ­ence on our body. For this reason, you can basic­ally listen to what your body tells you. If you know your­self well and pay atten­tion to your­self, you will quickly find out which food is good and tol­er­able. And also which you should rather avoid. Nev­er­the­less, there are some tips on what to watch out for in which cycle phase.

Nutri­tion for the men­strual cycle: Persephone, pomegranates and Japan­ese women

The god­dess of love and lust, Persephone, is often depic­ted with a pomegranate in her hand. It is a sign of her fer­til­ity and fem­in­in­ity. Pomegranates con­tain plant estro­gens, also called phytoes­tro­gens. These can activ­ate estro­gen recept­ors in the body, but also block them. Men­strual and PMS symp­toms often occur when the men­stru­at­ing per­son has an estro­gen sur­plus. In this case, phytoes­tro­gens have a block­ing effect. Estro­gen defi­cien­cies, on the other hand, are found in con­nec­tion with men­o­pause, where phytoes­tro­gens then have an activ­at­ing effect to com­pensate for the imbalance.

Like pomegranates, soy also con­tains phytoes­tro­gens. People in Asian coun­tries such as Japan eat a lot of soy. There­fore, women who fol­low a tra­di­tional asian diet hardly ever suf­fer from men­o­pausal symp­toms and PMS as known in Europe. There­fore, a reg­u­lar intake of phytoes­tro­gen-con­tain­ing foods can relieve symp­toms. Per­son­ally, I don’t like soy too much, so I’m very happy that len­tils, peas, beans, pota­toes, plums, and (pomegranate) apples, among oth­ers, also have phytoes­tro­genic effects. Espe­cially if you eat the peel too, because the highest con­cen­tra­tion of the valu­able sub­stance can be found dir­ectly under the peel.

Fol­licu­lar phase

Our body needs energy to rebuild the uter­ine lin­ing after men­stru­ation. Many men­stru­at­ors also feel more cheer­ful, upbeat and full of energy dur­ing this time. You can now sup­port your body with pro­tein-rich foods, such as kid­ney beans, len­tils or soy products. Pro­bi­otic foods such as sauerkraut, pickles, yogurt and bean sprouts also help dur­ing this phase.

Ovu­la­tion

Shortly before and dur­ing ovu­la­tion it can be help­ful to eat raw veget­ables, dark ber­ries, broc­coli, asparagus, corn, and red len­tils as these foods con­tain fiber, anti­ox­id­ants and cal­cium, that sup­port the body dur­ing ovulation.

Luteal phase

The luteal phase can be called the inner autumn. Our body shuts down and often­times you may feel the need to retreat. The well-being can now be increased with vit­amin B by eat­ing chick­peas, bana­nas, pep­pers, kale and avo­cado. Also, as a pre­cau­tion­ary meas­ure, one should already make sure to con­sume enough mag­nesium and iron so the body has no defi­cien­cies dur­ing men­stru­ation. Foods rich in iron are beet, fen­nel, arug­ula, wal­nuts and chocol­ate (the ones with a high cocoa content!).

Men­stru­ation

In addi­tion to iron, you can make sure you get enough unsat­ur­ated fats dur­ing your period. These can be found in sal­mon, avo­cado and olives for examleVit­amin A from spin­ach, car­rots, kale, sweet pota­toes and pump­kin also con­trib­ute to a hor­monal balance.

Avoid meat and dairy products as nutri­tion for the men­strual cycle

I was a veget­arian myself for quite a while and was happy that, unlike many people I know, I didn’t have cramps dur­ing my men­stru­ation. When I star­ted eat­ing meat reg­u­larly again I had cramps for the first (and unfor­tu­nately not the last) time. I didn’t see the con­nec­tion until I cut back on my meat con­sump­tion for two months. With a hot water bottle and lav­ender oil I was pre­pared for the abdom­inal pain but it didn’t come.

Meat and dairy products espe­cially beef and pork, saus­age, offal and whole milk con­tain a lot of arachidonic acid. This pro­motes inflam­ma­tion and cramps and there­fore causes more severe cramps and pain before and dur­ing men­stru­ation. We also absorb the stress hor­mone cortisol via meat, which is secreted by anim­als before slaughter and of which men­stru­at­ing women already have an increased dose in their bod­ies before their period any­way. To sum up, giv­ing up meat or eat­ing less meat for one to two weeks before men­stru­ation can help against the pain.

Reduce sugar and salt consumption

Sugar and also cow’s milk increase the pro­duc­tion of insulin. Insulin ensures the pro­duc­tion of testoster­one, which is partly respons­ible for acne and pimples. Addi­tion­ally salt should only be con­sumed in mod­er­a­tion before the period as it pro­motes water reten­tion in the body, which can occur espe­cially dur­ing this time.

Cyc­lic seeds and kernels

Dur­ing the two meat-reduced months, I also tested some­thing else: “seed cyc­ling.” The prin­ciple of seed cyc­ling is to sup­port the hor­mones and their bal­ance men­tioned at the  begin­ning with seeds. In the fol­licu­lar phase, these are flax­seeds and pump­kin seeds, which con­tain many omega-3 fatty acids that stim­u­late FSH. Ses­ame seeds and sun­flower seeds can sup­port you dur­ing the luteal phase. They con­tain omega-6 fatty acids and thus sup­port the pro­duc­tion of pro­ges­ter­one and pre­vent estro­gen dom­in­ance. In addi­tion, all of these seeds also con­tain the phytoes­tro­gens men­tioned above. So I snacked on pump­kin seeds, made my muesli Ins­tagram-ready with flax­seeds, and ate rolls with sun­flower seeds. 

How import­ant is nutri­tion for the men­strual cycle?

In the end, I can’t really say whether all of this had an influ­ence on my cycle as big as it prom­ises. Because although I felt com­fort­able in my skin, every cycle is indi­vidual and influ­enced by very dif­fer­ent things like stress, exer­cise and the psyche. We need more stud­ies on the cycle and men­stru­ation! But what I can say is: it helps to observe your­self dur­ing your cycle and to find out more about your body. It is a kind of self­care to sup­port your body with cer­tain food in dif­fer­ent phases.

If you want to learn more about the topic and are look­ing for recipes, I recom­mend the book “Eat like a woman” by Andrea Haslmayr and others.

Are you ready to finally under­stand your body & your mood swings bet­ter and learn cycle aware­ness? Then our online course "Cycle Aware­ness as a Super­power" is per­fect for you!

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Sophia
Sophia 
Stu­dent | + posts

Sophia lives near Lake Con­stance in Ger­many, where she stud­ies lit­er­at­ure, art and media. She soaks up inform­a­tion about the men­strual cycle like a (men­strual) sponge and tries hard to keep her tips lis­ted here in mind her­self, even if she some­times can't res­ist a frozen pizza.